The Big Bird Lands

I couldn’t have imagined this day panning out the way it did.  The Reeds were lulled into the tempo of the island and having a great time sipping coffee and eating muffins while taking strolls and later hikes on the trails.  A family arrived with relatives who had lived in The Netherlands for 17 years and while we stood on the catwalk outside at the top of the tower, a veritable regatta of boats came streaming toward the cove from the direction of Boothbay.  Could this be the Coast Guard arriving by boat instead of by helicopter as we’d been led to believe they would?  In fact, we learned from someone in touch with someone who’d stayed behind on their boat in the cove that it was 42 kids and 10 adults from the Southport Yacht Club.  What seemed like chaos soon settled into organized groups who waited fairly patiently to climb to the top of the tower where France was installed for the duration, which left me in the gift shop watching dozens of ten year-olds sign into the guest book and play checkers and race around the museum.  In fact they were very well behaved kids and one chaperone said she’d been coming out for years and found it interesting to meet the various caretakers from summer to summer.  I have to keep reminding myself that we are the real visitors here.

No sooner had they left and the next thing we expected on our agenda was Ken arriving in the cove needing assistance with the four women he was bringing, together with his wife, to host a picnic on Seguin which one of them had won in a raffle.  Then the unmistakable sound came that I’d anticipated all summer.  The whump whump whump of a distant helicopter.  Everyone stopped in their tracks.  The Reeds were on the lawn and France was up on the catwalk with visitors.  I noticed it first from the south and struggled to find my Flip video in my cargo shorts.  No, that was the Seguin cell phone.  What was I doing with that, France always carried that.  In another pocket where I knew I’d put the camera was my VHF radio.  Finally I found it in the same pocket with the digital camera.  Where’s the power button; turn it on!  The helicopter circled and appeared to head out to sea.  I lost sight of it behind the house.  Luke, the Reeds poodle, was running in circles.  Then it came around the house and circled toward the mainland and settled on a direct path from the north in a straight line toward the helipad.  The grass was freshly cut; the tower was clean, the nose of the helicopter was slightly lifted.  All that came to mind suddenly was the opening credits of MASH when everything on land that grows is flattened by the wind from the rotor, as the cut grass filled the air and blew into our faces.  The chair from which we get the best cell phone reception, which landed down on the sidewalk by the tram a week ago Wednesday when the tornado touched down, once again blew down the hill in a tumble.  I’d spend a couple of hours later in the afternoon in the shop in the Whistle House putting it back together.

For a long time nothing happened, but the thing didn’t shut down.  Then, finally, two men in blue came around from the other side of the chopper carrying cases of equipment in both hands and a helmeted man in a dark green suit and straps that looked like a harness for a parachute came with them.  It was hard to hear but one of the technicians introduced himself as Steve and I realized it was the guy I’d been speaking with by phone for the last six weeks on a number of occasions; he was the duty officer.  Why didn’t they turn off the engine?  Finally he introduced the pilot and then took me aside and asked if the pilot could use our facility.  The composting toilet, is that what he meant?  Of course, anything they needed, I was at the ready.  Once I’d escorted him onto the porch, I could finally hear his comments about how beautiful the place was.  I took him up to our bathroom on the second floor of the Keepers Quarters and instructed him as to the use of the composting toilet.  He marveled at the view from the bathroom.  I left him alone and went downstairs to find Steve and see if they needed anything from me.  Already they’d been down to the Whistle House and were setting up a new light fixture in the lens.  The tower was full of dust and grass clippings.

The pilots took turns using the facility.  As the second one emerged from the still powered helicopter, which made the helipad look like a postage stamp, he took off his glove as he approached me and shook my hand.  I led him up the porch and mentioned that because the toilet was composting, we often peed outside.  Because he gave no reaction I continued up the stairs to show him to our bathroom on the second floor.  He was very grateful and I left him alone.

Back in the lens, Steve and Mike were working away and had discovered in the Whistle House that part of the foghorn was in off mode, which meant that the sound we’d been hearing was only a fraction of what it should be.  So much for sleep.  The new double bulb replacement in the lens didn’t have the result they’d hoped for.  The helicopter took off letting the guys work a little longer before it circled a couple of times, disappeared and finally came back a while later.  During this time, Ken had arrived assisted by France in the cove to shuttle them from their boat with our dingy.  They’d no sooner set up their picnic, and the chopper returned.  It was a sight to see that huge earsplitting monster drift in, hover, and ease into the grass.  Steve admitted that the problems they’d discovered were beyond his expertise.  They would take the used fixture back to the lab to try to discover why the backup lights hadn’t gone on during the power outage last week.  They’d be back in a few weeks and he promised to call to warn me the day before.  I said I hoped I’d still be here and foisted the last of the peanut butter cookies on him.  He said he couldn’t, but I told him to share them with the guys.

There were more visitors including a fellow and his young son who were going to spend the night on his small sailboat in the cove.  His dingy was a canoe he’d sawed in half with a Swiss army knife and he wore a big floppy hat.  We were all in the cove to say good-bye to the Reeds and help them down with their stuff loaded on the tram.  Luke played in the water and splashed everyone on shore when he ran out and shook off the seawater.  If it weren’t for the fellow and his son spending the night on their boat, the only ones to remain in the cove, France and I would have had a swim and dried off on the deck in front of the boathouse.

We shared our first zucchini from the garden, sautéed in butter and olive oil with a lot of garlic and tossed with some fusilli pasta.  It was chilly at the picnic table but we had to eat outside.  Fresh green beans from the garden and some smoked muscles I’d picked up at the fish market filled out the menu, washed down with the last of the Jordan chardonnay.  At a moment like this my dad would day, heaven’s gotta be somethin’ like this.

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4 Responses to The Big Bird Lands

  1. Hello,
    I work for Jordan Vineyard & Winery and just discovered your post. We’re very glad to hear you enjoyed our Chardonnay. If you’d like to continue exploring all the exciting new changes at the winery since John Jordan took the reins from his father in 2005, we now have a weekly video blog, The Journey of Jordan (link below).
    Journey of Jordan: a wine and food video blog

    • Thank you for your interest. I’ll check it out. Jordan champagne used to be my favorite but I couldn’t afford it after a while. Then I tried your cabernet and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It too went out of my price range. Maybe they’ve come down. I’ll let you know.

  2. one2travelfar says:

    I am really enjoying your blog. You have a great voice and are almost painfully honest about the good and not so good aspects of caretaking. I love your observation that you are really the island’s visitor. Good luck with the mowing,
    Lynne (2008)

    • Thanks Lynne. I’m glad you’re enjoying following it. My friend Dee, who visited from New York, calls twice a day just so she can picture me whatever I’m doing and kind of be there herself too. I hope you’re having a great summer. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel next summer or the one after that, not to mention reentry in September. One day at a time.

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